Henley is inextricably linked with the Royal River Thames. The town is overlooked by beautiful Chiltern landscape of wooded hills and green fields. Just a few strides from the riverbank is the very heart of Henley with its historic church, town hall and market square, the latter bustling with busy stall-holders and shoppers on market days. They also enjoy browsing the town’s many boutiques.
Founded in the 12th century, and best known for the annual Royal Regatta, Henley attracts some of the world’s finest rowers. Statues of those great Olympians Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent greet visitors to the town´s award winning River and Rowing Museum.
History shows that Henley-on-Thames is lucky to still exist after 60 per cent of its residents were wiped out by the Black Death in the 14th century. Records going back even further show evidence of a medieval settlement in 1179 while in 1199 King John granted the town and manor of Henley and the manor of Benson to Robert Harcourt. A church is first mentioned in Henley in 1204 and a bridge in 1234 while a market existed there by 1269 and in 1278 Henley is mentioned as a hamlet of Benson with a chapel.
The town slowly recovered from the Black Death and its prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries owed a lot to the manufacture of glass and malt and trade in corn and wool. The town benefited a lot from its location and port since it was also a noted supplier of timber and grain to London. There are several architectural gems in the town including Henley’s five-arch bridge across the river which was built in 1786. Elsewhere Fawley Court’s red brick splendour was designed by Christopher Wren in 1684 and had subsequent interior remodelling by James Wyatt as well as landscaping by Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
The town, which lies on the edge of the picturesque Chiltern Hills, has a population of about 10,000 and also boasts the fourth oldest working theatre in the country.